What is the cloud?
The cloud, or cloud computing, refers to the massive collection of computers, servers and similar
equipment organized for universal accessibility. As Re/code describes, “The cloud refers to
software and services that run on the internet, instead of locally on your computer. Most cloud
services can be accessed through a web browser like Firefox or Google Chrome.”
The cloud is designed to scale, incorporating more and more devices and machines and enabling
people to access it from any individual node on the network. Building a platform with that kind of
flexibility and reliability isn’t as easily available using physical hardware.
Water Management in the Cloud
Cloud computing is becoming a critical component to water management as the space matures
for three reasons.
Firstly, water movement is seasonal. Properties with large landscaping requirements need to use
a increasingly large amounts of water for plant health in the summer, while those same systems
can be completely shut off in the winter. Similarly, water usage in cooling towers can change
based on weather. The cloud’s ability to dynamically scale allows for more resources to be
available as the usage increases to ensure systems are working properly under any load.
Secondly, the computing power and specialization available in the cloud have long outpaced the
capabilities available in the standard field controllers. The cloud provides a much deeper ability to
collect and analyze data and provides a platform to share customized analytics and evaluation
across massive data sets to improve water use.
Finally, cloud computing provides a universally accessible infrastructure that allows all the
monitoring and optimization to be leveraged from anywhere. This infrastructure can give access
to specific people regardless of their proximity to the property. For example, landscapers can be
given access to track and use all the water-related equipment while on the property. Meanwhile,
regional managers and facilities managers can track and review the properties performance from
their headquarters. This flexibility gives everyone the access they need wherever they need
it. This infrastructure can also be used to combine data sets that were nearly impossible to
combine before. For example, we can now combine control information, usage information and
utility billing information to get a bigger picture of how water is being used on the property.
Is the cloud safe?
After seeing the flexibility that cloud implementations of water management provide, the frequent
follow-up question is whether the cloud is safe. The answer lies in two parts. The cloud
infrastructure is meant to be large and to compartmentalize its various uses. This virtualization of
equipment and creation of private networks creates an extremely safe infrastructure. Similarly, its
infrastructure encourages additional safety with economies of scale and provides a better,
centralized approach to keeping up with security patches.
In addition to the infrastructure, the user security and IoT equipment security needs to be
established to ensure safe and secure communication. These are best practices implemented in
development to ensure that the communication using HTTPS or other secured communication
protocols and proper authentication to ensure that only trusted users can access the data and
features they are allowed to see.
The future of water management looks promising as we migrate into a secure, flexible and
powerful future of computing. We have more tools to optimize water use and monitor water-related systems than ever before. Cloud computing is one important building block for our ability
to act as strong stewards of Earth’s most precious resource.